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Where Did Jesus Go After He Died on the Cross?

posted Jun 27, 2017, 10:18 AM by First Baptist


During Core Connect on Wednesdays, we’ve been studying the Apostle’s Creed. One of the statements we haven’t had time to focus on is the statement that, following His death, Jesus “descended into hell.”


Is this right? If so, what did He do there?



Relevant Scripture Passages


It should be noted that the Bible isn’t crystal-clear on this. Perhaps the passage that deals with the matter most directly is I Peter 3:18-20, where it says:


He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.


Another possibly relevant passage is Ephesians 4:8-10. Here Paul writes:


‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?)


Finally, a third passage of note is Jesus’ conversation with the thief who was crucified next to him. The thief said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied:


“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”



OT Background


In trying to sort all this through, it’s important to note what the OT teaches about the afterlife.


From the OT, we know that when a person dies, the body decays while their soul goes to sheol. Sheol is a Hebrew word that means “place of the dead.” The Greek (or New Testament) equivalent of sheol is hades. Hades is sometimes translated as hell.


Sheol/hades evidently has three compartments: (1) the abyss, or place of confinement for the demons who sinned in the days of Noah; (2) torments, or place of suffering for the unrighteous; and (3) paradise (also called “Abraham’s bosom), or place of blessing for the righteous. “Abraham’s bosom” is where Lazarus went to in Luke 16.



Putting It All Together


Among theologians, there is nearly unanimous agreement that, upon his death (and prior to his resurrection), Jesus went to sheol/hades. However, to which compartment he went, and what he did there, is subject to much debate.


I think a good case can be made that Jesus visited all three compartments. Based on the 1st Peter passage, to the fallen angels & unrighteous, Jesus “preached” or proclaimed his victory to them. (He didn’t seek to evangelize them.) As to paradise, the Ephesians 4 passage suggests HE EMPTIED IT, meaning he took the souls there with him to heaven.


Eventually, the demons in the abyss & the human souls in the place of torment will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the final hell. Meanwhile, the righteous in Christ will receive their resurrected bodies and will live forever with God in the new heaven & new earth.


Pastor Dan